Professional sports returning to New York took a step forward Sunday afternoon, with the announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that teams can begin holding training camps immediately.
The Nets were the first team to take advantage, announcing they will open their practice facility in Brooklyn on Tuesday for voluntary workouts while adhering to the protocols listed by the NBA and working with local government officials and health authorities. Now it’s up to the others — and their respective leagues — to begin the road back to action from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Nets were harder hit than any other NBA team by the coronavirus, with four players testing positive, including Kevin Durant. They were all cleared and symptom-free by April, general manager Sean Marks said at the time. The Nets are not requiring players to return from out of the area.
While the Nets will become the 22nd NBA team to offer informal voluntary workouts at their practice complex, the Knicks have yet to commit to doing so.
The Rangers and Islanders, meanwhile, are waiting for the NHL to communicate to its clubs a course of action for reopening for workouts. The Mets and Yankees are planning to resume spring training at their respective sites in Florida, so this news won’t change anything for them. It won’t impact the Jets or Giants, either, because they practice in New Jersey and Gov. Phil Murphy has yet to allow sports teams in his state to resume workouts.
“Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps,” Cuomo said during a press conference at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh. “I believe sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena, do it. Do it. Work out the economics if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports to the extent people are still staying home. It gives people something to do.
“It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible, and we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”
Under the NBA guidelines for opening facilities in accordance with local governments that were set on May 8, no more than four players are allowed to work out together at one time and no coaches are allowed to participate. Scrimmages are also prohibited. Several Nets have remained in the area and will be available to participate in these workouts.
“The organization will strictly follow the protocols outlined by the NBA and infectious disease experts to ensure that all precautions are taken in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment for players and staff,” the team said in a statement released Sunday afternoon.
According to a source, the Knicks are still receiving clarification from the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver is expected to give further guidelines after June 1 to ramp up workouts in group settings, as the NBA is in talks with Disney and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla., to host the remainder of its season as early as late July. Official training camps aren’t expected to begin until mid-to-lane June and it remains toretur be seen if those will be held at team facilities or in Orlando.
It is unclear how many Knicks players would be around if the facility is opened since many of them are out of area with their families. Two Knicks — Taj Gibson and Frank Ntilikina — have remained local.
The other issue is if the Knicks will have any games left to play. It is unclear if the NBA will bring back just the 16 playoff teams, complete the regular season or have a play-in tournament. If that includes 24 teams, it would involve the Knicks, who finished the postponed regular season in 12th place. The Nets, which own seventh place, would be involved in virtually any of the reported plans. The Post previously reported a few Knicks players were wary of returning to New York due to the virus that has ravaged the city, though it has seen declining deaths and cases in recent weeks.
The Rangers and Islanders are in a holding pattern, as the NHL determines its next course of action.
“We are still working with the NHL Players’ Association [NHLPA] on a league-wide plan to return to play,” NHL group VP of communications John Dellapina told The Post via email.
There were signs of progress this week, with the executive board of the NHLPA voting to approve a 24-team, conference-based playoff format to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup winner. The playoff would see the Rangers face the Hurricanes in the first round while the Islanders would face the Panthers. First, they have to get back on the ice. Now, with Cuomo’s blessing, they can without leaving New York once they receive direction from the NHL.
— Additional reporting by Marc Berman